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Green begins where Kanata ends: Dunrobin resident named Trees Ontario Green Leader

Dunrobin, ON, May 25 –The picturesque village of Dunrobin lies in a valley northwest of Ottawa. The area is covered with forests and farms dating from the early 1800’s along with streams and the escarpment that separates it from the Ottawa River.

Residents of Dunrobin think they live in paradise – a green oasis in the Ottawa River valley. However many people worry that their paradise is being threatened by the rapidly growing urban sprawl of Metropolitan Ottawa and in particular the growth of nearby Kanata. What were once areas of beautiful trees are now rural subdivisions. The colour green is being replaced by concrete grey and asphalt black.

Even with the five-year moratorium on further development in the area, residents are concerned about what the future may hold. Attendance at the local community association meetings is growing as residents in the area take a more active interest in protecting the environment and the place that they for generations have called home.

Jessie Marshall is one such concerned resident and she is doing something different to ensure Dunrobin remains beautiful and green. After purchasing her 116-acre property in 1999, Jessie embarked on an aggressive tree planting effort to create a lush green forest wall of resistance against the expanding urban sprawl.

In the early 1800’s her land was given to James Dent Weatherley – a retired Captain in the British Army – in recognition of his service to his country. Jessie can imagine how breath-taking her property must have looked.  She and her husband live in the stone house built on the property in 1872. They have gone to great lengths to artfully restore and preserve it.

“We place a great deal of importance on the heritage designation on the house and our property,” said Jessie. “We feel like caretakers and believe it is our duty to maintain and enhance the property as best we can out of respect for its historical significance and richness. Restoring the stone house and planting lots of trees are two great ways to do that.”

Eight years ago Jessie started by planting 2,200 trees in three rows running along the roads that border the property. They offer privacy and provide a sound barrier from passing cars … not to mention the natural beauty.

“My dad who lives with us did some research on the programs and incentives for landowners interested in planting trees,” said Jessie. “I had never done a tree planting on this scale so needed some guidance.”

His research pointed her in the direction of Dan Cooper from the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority who along with Brian Anderson of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority and David Barkley, the Forestry Manager at the City of Ottawa, worked with Jessie to help her achieve her tree planting goals.

Following the success of her first planting, Jessie planted 7,000 more trees near the front lawn of the property. This area is uneven and has a creek running through it that is fairly large during the annual spring run-off. It is land that is only suitable for trees.

“Every time I wanted to plant more trees, I would call Dan who helped find the funding, develop the planting plan, secure the seedlings and assist with the plant. Dan and the entire team were so great to work with and the funding and support made it so easy and affordable,” said Jessie.

It was shortly after this second planting that the Ontario Government introduced the 50 Million Tree Program that provides incentives and support to landowners looking to plant trees with the goal of planting 50 million trees in the province by 2025. The program is managed by Forests Ontario who works with local conservation authorities, stewardship councils, First Nations communities and forestry experts as part of the largest not-for-profit tree planting partnership in North America.

When Jessie called Dan again in 2010 with another large planting request, he told her she would qualify for the funding and support provided through the 50 Million Tree Program which meant all aspects of the tree planting process would be taken care of at a cost of only $0.15 per tree.

“Seeing how little each tree was going to cost and how much support we were going to get from Dan and his team, it made it very easy to decide on planting an entire corner of our property with close to 8,000 trees. What a beautiful forest it is going to be…like back in the days of Captain Weatherley,” added Jessie.

And, she also knows her tree planting is a great way to keep Dunrobin green. It is an example of how others who fear their town is on the verge of being swallowed up by urban sprawl can preserve the green paradise. “Having grown up in Ottawa, I have seen Ottawa’s growth and expansion first hand. Residents here and in neighbouring communities have every right to be concerned. Here is something we can do,” said Jessie.

“We must all work together to do whatever we can to protect what we believe is most precious to us. By planting over 17,000 trees, I am trying to do my part for Dunrobin,” added Jessie.

Looking ahead, she plans to attend local community meetings more regularly and to share her tree planting experiences with other people in the hope they follow suit. “If we all pitch in and plant more trees, we can make Dunrobin so beautiful, people won’t want to ruin it with any development,” added Jessie.

That might very well be their best way to ensure Dunrobin doesn’t become a paradise lost.

“I would like to commend Jessie Marshall for her efforts to re-green the province and to celebrate and enhance the heritage of their home and property,” said Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Natural Resources. “I encourage others to get involved with the 50 Million Tree Program to help fight climate change and protect Ontario’s biodiversity.”

For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs as well as local tree planting workshops to help you get started, visit: